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March 12, 2008 > Auto Review: Chevrolet HHR

Auto Review: Chevrolet HHR

We had a Chevy HHR for a for a road test vehicle a few weeks ago. The HHR is Chevy's entry into the small, retro vehicle market. It looks like a 1940s panel truck with a modern, very distinctive look. You can quickly pick out an HHR in traffic.

There are four basic HHR models available. The first is the LS version that starts at $17,135. The base drive train for all these HHR models is the 2.2-liter, 4-cylinder, 149 HP (152 foot pounds of torque) engine that uses 87 octane gas and a 5-speed manual transmission. The alternative is a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder, 172 HP engine that requires 91 octane gas. Then you can get an HHR without side windows which looks like an early panel truck and starts at $17,440.

A 4-speed automatic transmission is available on all models for an additional $1,000. If you get the automatic transmission, you also get a neat remote starter system that allows you to start your HHR from the front door of your house, so it can warm up in cold weather.

The hot new addition for 2008 is the HHR SS. It has a turbocharged, 2-liter motor that adds another 88 HP for a total of 260 HP. It comes with all kinds of additional goodies like a short throw shifter, sport-tuned suspension, tuned intake and exhaust systems, 18 x 7.5 inch wheels, and really nice seats. Even though I did not drive this one, it sounds like a good deal because its MSRP is only $22,995.

Our test HHR had the 2LT package that included the 172 HP engine, sport-tuned suspension, 17" wheels, and the high end audio system. Other options like a $750 sunroof, automatic transmission, and $395 side airbags brought the total up to $21,690. Chevy currently has some good financial incentives shown on their website.

Various models with manual or automatic transmissions gave 22 or 23 miles per gallon in the city test and 30 or 31 in the highway test. The complete vehicle warranty coverage is 3 years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. The Powertrain Warranty is five years or 100,000 miles. Additional protection plans are available through the GMAC insurance company.

The HHR is fun, easy to drive and has a smooth ride. It was peppy, but not a rocket ship. There is plenty of back seat room for all but very tall people. On the negative side, the front seating position was high and the seats were unsupportive. Some friends commented that it seemed claustrophobic with its low roof, but I didn't think it was bad at all.

The HHR is the kind of vehicle that you buy because you want one. The question of buying an HHR is really pretty simple. If you like the way it looks, you'd buy one. If you don't like their styling, you won't.

By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists

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